Lawrence Mooney brings his existential crisis to Canberra
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Lawrence Mooney brings his existential crisis to Canberra

Lawrence Mooney: Moonman. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, Saturday, November 26, 8pm. canberratheatrecentre.com.au/show/lawrence-mooney-moonman.

There's something about Lawrence Mooney that gets you giggling even before he starts talking. He also inspires the slightly uncomfortable feeling that whatever does come out of his mouth might be a bit harsh. Or very harsh. And honest. Always honest.

Comedian Lawrence Mooney is asking the big questions in his new show Moonman at the Canberra Theatre Centre this month.

Comedian Lawrence Mooney is asking the big questions in his new show Moonman at the Canberra Theatre Centre this month.Credit:Simon Schluter

No wonder his friends call him, affectionately, a "loose unit".

"I have a little bit of impulse control issues," he says, deadpan.

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Mooney won plenty of fans with his quick wit and irreverence hosting  Dirty Laundry Live  on ABC-TV.

Mooney won plenty of fans with his quick wit and irreverence hosting Dirty Laundry Live on ABC-TV.

Whether that's speeding at 168km/h on a Melbourne freeway (he lost his licence for 12 months and was fined $1000) or losing it on Twitter with a critic who didn't like his show ("don't play victim deadshit..."), the last year saw things "start to fray at the edges" for Mooney.

Turning 50 seemed to inspire some existential angst, despite the fact the father-of-two was happily married and enjoying lots of professional cred.

"You've got to consider all the things that you want, as the sand starts to run through the hourglass. You can see it now – there's more sand at the bottom, than the top," he says. "You don't consider mortality through your 20s, 30s and 40s and now I'm in my 50s, it's like, 'F--k, it is running out'. So now I want everything more."

The result of this midlife introspection is his new show, Lawrence Mooney: Moonman, which he is performing in Canberra this month.

It tackles all the big questions – "Who am I? What do I want? and What am I doing?" – in a show he actually started workshopping when he performed freestyle in the Courtyard Studio in February.

"So, I owe it all to you Canberra," he says.

And it seems to have done the trick.

"I reckon I'm in a happier, calmer, more contemplative space and as a result, I've got nothing to write about for the next show. I have to go out and punch a cop or expose myself just to have something to write about," he says.

"And that is the conundrum: 'If you find complete happiness, if you find self-actualisation, does the comedy stop?'."

Well, there are always world events to inspire.

We're talking the day after Donald Trump has been elected the next US president and the result has him confounded.

"I've had a lot of intense conversations with female friends over the last 24 hours, Marieke Hardy, my wife, one of the producers from Have You Been Paying Attention? and women, men as well, but more so women, just seem to be so bewildered and kind of dispirited by the whole thing," he said.

"And I thought what wasn't being talked about in all the analysis, because they can't poll it, was the 'I'm Not Voting for a Woman Vote'. Because no one's going to admit that was the reason. But I reckon that was it.

"They talk about this disaffected heartland, well, there's a tidal wave of men and women who decided, 'I'm not voting for her'. And that's sad."

He can always look to his daughters, 15-year-old Lily and three-year-old Maggie, for a little sunshine in a dark world.

"[Maggie] is obsessed with Play School. Dropped Peppa Pig, not even interested in Peppa Pig anymore, and as a result, our house, our world is just one big craft project," he says.

"And it's amazing some of the quality of the stuff she does. She made these paper plate chickens with little eyes on the side and a bit of a balloon as a tongue and yellow streamers for feathers and it's pretty good for three-and-a-half.

"The chicken does look like it grew up in Chernobyl considering where it's eyes are, but apart from that it's clearly a chicken."

Obviously, there is his next career move – Play School is crying out for another naughty, John Hamblin-style presenter.

"Yeah, the invitation's never been extended to me to be on Play School. I would embrace it with both hands, of course. My favourite one at the moment is Teo, he's so spot-on, pitch perfect."

Melbourne-born Mooney started his professional life in the 1980s, as you do, training drug-detecting dogs for Customs in Canberra.

"Customs, for me, was the first job out of school because I didn't want to go to uni to do the courses, I was accepted into. So I decided to get a job, you're in the public service, and, really, anything you do between the ages of 18 and 24 is fun and joyful.

"I lived in Canberra for a while, well in Queanbeyan, trained in Fyshwick were the Customs drug detector dog training centre is. So you can go out there, train your dog, get your porn and fireworks and that's a good afternoon in anyone's language.

"So, yeah, I lived in Queanbeyan and at the time the Canberra Raiders were based in Queanbeyan and the oval was just behind the hotel. And that's how I became a Raiders fan as well."

He always had a "burning desire to act and perform" so started in amateur theatre with 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully in Melbourne.

"Then I moved out of home into the inner-city [Melbourne], so amateur theatre became fringe theatre and I had the really wonderful experience of working at La Mama a couple of times, which is a legendary Australian playwrights' theatre.

"From there, I went to the National Theatre Drama School [in St Kilda] and whilst there, went to the Esplanade Hotel for Tuesday night comedy and there was Greg Fleet up on the stage along with the likes of Judith Lucy and Anthony Morgan, The Empty Pockets and that was that.

"I ran away with the circus."

While disappointed with the axing of his irreverent poke at celebrity that was Dirty Laundry Live on the ABC ["I thought we had some really good intense discussions about thing things as well as great laughs"], Mooney has been busy appearing on several Channel Seven shows including The Big Music Quiz, In Rio Today during the Paralympics and Best Bits.

That doesn't mean he wants to go entirely mainstream.

"I would definitely work on a project on the Seven Network where I could do a bit of edge," he says.

"Commercial networks are a little bit safer than the ABC – and that's what's nice about the ABC, having the licence to go places on Dirty Laundry Live you probably couldn't do on other channels.

"But something with edge would be great. I'm not ready to be the newsreader just yet, or hosting a game show.

"Not that there's anything wrong with newsreading or hosting a game show.

"I would like to do something a little bit more 'on brand' for Lawrence Mooney which is watching something where you go, 'We don't know what's going to happen next, because we don't think he does'."